When the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens tangle in the Week 1 opener, there will be tons of questions and pride on the line.
The time is getting closer. Expectations are sky-high. When the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens go to battle at Paul Brown Stadium, there will be a lot on the line. The offseason has brought changes to the shores of the Queen City that are out of the ordinary. The home team is ready to erase the stench of a 6-9-1 disaster that took them out of the playoff picture. Posting a win against the division rival is a good way to make a point. It’s a case of making a statement early.
It would be easy to state the obvious. The Bengals have been the dominant team in this AFC North face off for quite some time. In the last 10 meetings, the Bengals are a crazy 7-3 against the lads from B-more. Before last season’s questionable loss at M&T Bank Stadium, the Men in Stripes had won five straight. That defeat was avenged with a 27-10 smashing in the finale at PBS. But, this will be a tough game to walk away with.
The Ravens have looked good in preseason and will want to have that excitement carry over to the regular season. However, the Bengals will have a few things to say about the final outcome.
In The Trenches
There’s no doubt about it. The Ravens will be going after Andy Dalton with reckless abandon. The vanilla and watered down schemes of the preseason will be put to bed. Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees is no slouch. His unit has been a staple in the Top 10 for the past three seasons. Coming into the opener, there’s one Bengals “weakness” that will be tested early and often: the offensive line.
Sadly, there will be exotic stunts, twists and bull rushes thrown at the Bengals’ young offensive line. The Ravens have probably heard their fill of how Cincinnati is still finding their way with the line. Accordingly, it will be raining linebackers, safeties and any defender that can be spared to blitz.
When the Ravens are lethal, they have a decent running game. Remember Ray Rice? Look for a constant pounding from the B-more line. Defending the running game is usually the Bengals’ kryptonite. With that said, the ground attack will be in full force from the Ravens.
This will be a stern test for the Bengals and their young defenders. Jordan Willis, Andrew Billings and the Bengals D-line will have an advantage. The Ravens will be fielding an offensive line that has limited experience also. Sunday will be the first time the starters have played together. That could lead to sack opportunities for Carl Lawson & Friends.
The Skill Game
Dalton will have to step up, even in the face of a fierce Baltimore rush. This game will have a playoff atmosphere and Dalton tends to shrink under those circumstances. If he can go through his progressions and get to his checkdown option before being sacked, frustration will set in for the Ravens’ defense. Dalton looked good in preseason Week 3. Now, it’s the real deal. It has to carry over.
"“Like I said, it is not ideal. But, I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’m going to make the most of it.”"
Did someone mention A.J. Green? If not, the B-more defense will. Green has been the bane of John Harbaugh & Co. Now, he has a few friends to make the job a bit easier. If John Ross is a last minute addition, the Bengals will have a downfield threat to pull the attention away from Green. The presence of Josh Malone could also pose a problem for the Ravens’ secondary. Toss in a little Cody Core and the speed factor takes over.